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Starring Arabelle

Author fulfills retirement goal with lovable ‘tween’ novel

Created date

November 20th, 2012

Hillary De Baun had three goals for retirement: pierce her ears, take a road trip to U.S. national parks with her husband Vincent, and, When we got back, I was going to write, she says. She accomplished all three, and this fall, Starring Arabelle, her novel for young readers, hit literal and virtual bookshelves. If you don t have a plan for your retirement, it can be rough. If you do have a plan, it can be great, says Hillary, who now lives at Linden Ponds, an Erickson Living community in Hingham, Mass., with Vincent, where his-and-hers desks set the stage for ongoing creative endeavors.

Triumphant tale

Years in the making,Starring Arabellewas published by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company. The story of 14-year-old Arabelle Archer, a spunky, would-be heroine with unwavering determination but unstable footing, is a triumph for author and reader alike. As she begins her freshman year of high school, Arabelle juggles the insecurities of a new school, new friends, new demands, and her dream to be an actress. She becomes involved in the school playYou Can t Take It With Youand accepts a volunteer position at Heavenly Rest, a nursing home. Joie de vivreis the theme that runs through the story in Arabelle s lovable optimism, in the subject of the school play, and in her quirky friends at Heavenly Rest. The stories intersect in a humorous and endearing crescendo. I kept seeing the connection between what goes on in the play, which is a story about a crazy [but happy] family, Hillary says. It s kind of the same way at the Heavenly Rest nursing home in their own way they enjoy each other and they enjoy life. Referencing the book s intended tween audience (ages 10-14), Marian Jenkins, who lives at Linden Ponds, says, I must be a juvenile because I simply loved it. Marian interviewed Hillary about the book onLet s Talk, Marian s television program on Linden Ponds in-house TV channel. I loved all of the characters and the plot, the beginning, and the end. I just marveled at her as an author.

Accidental career

Humor is a constant inArabelleand, for Hillary, a conscious goal. I like humor, she says, adding that there were no books about funny kids, when she began her writing career. Hillary became an author somewhat accidentally while teaching preschool in Alabama. The De Bauns moved to the south from Auburndale, Mass., shortly after the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., in an effort to play a role in desegregation. Vincent taught at an African-American college, and Hillary and some other faculty wives founded the first integrated preschool in their deep southern community. They didn t have books, they didn t have TV, they didn t have anything, she says of the students. Hillary filled the need by creating her own stories to use in the classroom. That s where I got hooked on writing.

Adventures with Arabelle

When the De Bauns moved to Cazenovia, N.Y., Hillary began revising some of her earlier work and sending it to publishers, to some interest. That was when she discovered that her passion was in writing for older readers. The character of Arabelle was born. Arabelle s about as unlike me when I was 14 as she could ever be, Hillary says. Hillary worked with editors at Random House, who advised expanding her short Arabelle stories into a novel. But then she and her husband moved to Jamaica Plain, Mass., and both began work at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, marking the start of Hillary s 20-year hiatus from writing. Hillary returned to writing to fulfill her retirement goal and has continued since their move to Linden Ponds two years ago. By that time, Hillary was well into discussion with Eerdmans Publishing. The couple saw the advantages of Linden Ponds onsite medical staff and other amenities, as well as its proximity to Boston and Hillary s writing group in Cambridge. AsStarring Arabellelanded on bookshelves, and Hillary hosted a book signing at Barnes & Noble in Hingham, Arabelle s adventures had just begun. Hillary is finishing a sequel that features Arabelle as a volunteer cub reporter who faces danger covering an outbreak of burglaries in her hometown. What I most want to give readers, aside from quirky characters and comical adventure, is the feeling that the story could actually happen to them that they could own the adventure and be a part of it, she writes on her website. For more information aboutStarring Arabelle and author Hillary Hall De Baun, visit